Response to Prompt 1: Norton’s Intrinsic Value


By definition, an instrumental value system separates humans from their environment in a hierarchical fashion. A better question would be whether or not this value system can be used to preserve or conserve the environment in a sustainable manner. That is, can an instrumental value system treat the environment in a way that does not reduce the quality of life for the next generation? By itself? Maybe, but the obligation to provide a world equivalently great for the next generation would need to be strong enough to overcome the developing world’s hunger for a type of progress that is unattainable without the overexploitation of the Earth’s resources.

On the other hand, an intrinsic value system provides that humans are an integrated part of the environment in which we live. This value system breeds a natural respect for the world and its limited resources, which can be an invaluable perspective for preservation and conservation. However, intrinsic values can only exist if we have personal experiences and connections with nature. As time has progressed, so has our technology, resulting in an ever-increasing gap between humans and their natural environment. Technology has robbed many people of this connection; how often have we spent a Sunday glued to the Internet instead of taking a trip to a local park? However, the remedy is simple: education and exposure.  By increasing the awareness and access to of our natural world, we can start to develop stronger connections to the Earth that sustains us.

While I believe strongly in the power of an intrinsic value system, it will not be enough to create a sustainable planet. If we hope to provide a healthy planet for generations to come, we must combine an intrinsic respect for the planet with the knowledge that without it’s resources we will cease to exist.


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